Can I go for a hike in my local woods? Do I need to cancel my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike? Is it safe to take the train or bus to travel? If these questions and similar ones are on your mind during this Corona Virus Pandemic, read on.
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Class of 2020
Mid-March is usually a time where many thru-hikers from Europe, Australia and Asia board a plane to head to the USA 🇺🇸, Mexico 🇲🇽 or Canada 🇨🇦 to thru-hike one of the three long-distance trails in North America: The Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. With the COVID-19 Pandemic, however, this plan is looking more and more unrealistic: The USA is no longer allowing Europeans and other nationals into their country, and Mexico and Canada might follow suit at any time - let alone the question if you get a flight or plane ticket to either country right now.
As hopeful as one might be and for example plan to post-pone the thru-hike to a later starting date, or to travel first to Mexico for two weeks of “quarantine holidays” and then to enter the USA, personally I think it is best to post-pone the whole thru-hike till 2021. The three big trails won’t run away, and I am sure that employers, family, partners and friends are understandable and emphatic about the difficult decision to postpone a 2020 thru-hike.
Because: Gatherings of 10+ people are not recommended in the USA, governments across the world urge people to avoid all nonessential travel, and also restaurants and other stores along the AT, CDT and PCT have closed for the time being, which will make it difficult to resupply in towns. Or as Maggie puts it: “If potential travel, quarantine, and amenity closures don’t make the choice for you, you’ll have to decide if it’s the morally sound thing to do.” She did, and cancelled her 2020 PCT thru-hike. If you still plan to go ahead, consider these three messages to all Long-Distance Permit Holders.
Some governments (the German and Finnish one, for example) are smart enough to recommend daily walks at the fresh air (avoiding large amounts of people and such, obviously 😊). That’s perfect for us hikers, cyclists and backpackers, I feel, and allows us to discover our immediate surroundings on a long walk or an Overnighter (some call it a Microadventure!). Because when was the last time that you went out to explore what lays behind your town and fields? I know for me it’s been a while, so this situation where you now can not head to the Pub or Café to meet friends means you can go for a relaxing walk in nature. I still believe that nature is one of the best places to get new ideas and to calm down. Obviously cycling or going for a packrafting or SUP trip, weather permitting, are all perfect ways to go explore locally, too. Thinking of it, for those living at the coast or near a water body, this COVID-19 Pandemic might be the perfect excuse to loan or buy a packraft, especially if you already explore your local region on foot and know every tree!
By the way, if you have little time to hike because you should commute to work - maybe you can “hike” or cycle to work instead of taking the train or bus? That way you get the recommended “outside” time, and also avoid during your commute larger groups of people.
As ski resorts around the world continue to close down, and governments (like in Austria) recommend that you are not going ski touring, climbing or hiking, the question remains if you should cancel all your mountain activities. In my opinion, if you know there’s a 100% safe ski (or hiking) tour, the avalanche forecast says everything is A-OK, and you’re not breaking any laws, then head to the mountains to enjoy the little snow we had this winter. Just make sure to be respectful of your local laws & recommendations, other people, and avoid injuries at all costs - it always is better to turn around instead of risking your life. Because with hospitals expected to stay busy with ill patients, every effort should be made to avoid injuries.⠀
Stay safe & wash your hands
In the end you have to make decisions that are safe for everyone. I want to encourage you to see the positive effect of this pandemic, which is that you can get to know & explore your local outdoors, and that you take the recommended precautions to safeguard the health and safety of yourself and others around you, while still pursuing your favourite outdoor activity - or discover a new one.
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